5 Reasons Why Jill Abramson’s Commencement Speech Was Perfect


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1. Jill Abramson said in her media covered, highly profiled commencement speech at Wake Forest University on Monday, May 19, 2014, “I’m talking to anyone who’s been dumped…You know the sting of losing or not getting something you badly want. When that happens, show what you are made of.” Jill recognized that all college students relate to being “dumped”, even if it’s never been anything to the caliber of losing a highly prestigious position at one of the most read and respected newspapers in the world.

2. Abramson embraced resiliency in a non-cliché way. There was really nothing about her speech that felt cliché. She, like any good former journalist, editor, and intellect, hit the key points while remaining true to herself and the graduates. She could have made the entire speech about her life, her rise and her most recent fall, or she could have made the speech about all gender equality, but she didn’t. She remained as humanly universal as any graduation speaker possibly could. She not only talked the talk, but she walked the walk, she showed what she was made of. She discussed and exemplified true resiliency.

3. During her speech, Abramson mentioned having a tattoo of the famed “T” from The New York Times logo. She did not shy away from having the tattoo, and she proudly claimed that she would not remove it. Jill, a true example of charm and grace, decided to take the high road, the road less traveled. She could have been bitter and a bit remorse about The New York Times. However, she shared her love of her time at the newspaper.

4. Jill discussed the future in a way that revealed her openness. She made herself more relatable to college students by telling them that she did not know what would come next in her future. Abramson’s reflections and positive outlook revealed that she was not in mourning and that she would bounce back from this setback. Like many graduates on the morning of Monday, May 19th, Jill was not sure what and where she would be by June 1st. A theme of positivity related to the unknown ran through the entire speech.

5. Jill discussed the glass ceiling without specifically referencing breaking the glass ceiling. A key part of her speech connected Abramson to her relationship with Anita Hill. She talked about her friendship with a woman that the media had painted in the most negative light, two decades ago. In her discussion of Anita Hill, she made it clear that she has always been willing to fight the good fight and stand up for people, in particular women. This does not make her man-hating, bossy, unruly woman or editor; rather, she is human and caring and generous. She showed the world, but more importantly, the graduating class of 2014 at Wake Forest University, that all human beings can be strong, resilient, caring, and gracefully deal with negativity and hardship. Her speech, while about resilience also embodied Wake Forest’s motto, Pro Humanitate (for Humanity).